Aug 18, 2010 7:34pm
Re: Copyright on British films
According to section 104A(h) of the present U.S. Copyright Act, in a passage added by Public Law 103-465 (effective date of December 8, 1994):
"(6) The term 'restored work' means an original work of authorship that--
"(C) is in the public domain in the United States due to--
"(i) noncompliance with formalities imposed at any time by United States copyright law, including failure of renewal, lack of proper notice, or failure to comply with any manufacturing requirements;"
"Restored work" is the term applying to foreign works previously not under copyright in the U.S. which gained copyright protection through the combination of (a) the above-named 1994 act, and (b) having copyright protection in the country of origin.
From the wording of 104A(h)(6)(C)(i) quoted above, it looks like as long as a British film without a copyright notice (such as "Rembrandt," cited above) enjoyed copyright protection in its own country, it doesn't matter that copyright was at one time lost in the U.S., it was able to get copyright protection under URAA/GATT--since that lack of copyright notice was merely a past-times "noncompliance with formalities."
The first question this raises in my mind is: Was there a rule in place in the U.K. in the 1930s and 1940s that required a work (film or otherwise) to have a copyright notice in order to enjoy British copyright? If not, the film enjoyed British copyright, and it seems that 104A(h)(6)(i) gives it American copyright as well.
If U.K. law of the 1930s and 1940s DID mandate a copyright notice for there to be copyright protection, then the question comes as to whether the film gained British copyright some other way. This is important because, although 104A(h)(6)(i) could be interpreted to give copyright protection to a British film without a copyright notice (contingent upon date of publication, etc.), elsewhere in 104A, it's stated that American copyright won't be conferred on a foreign work via 104A if the work has already exhausted its copyright protection in the country of origin.
Thanks go to Video-Cellar for U.K. law passages that he quotes in his post of August 14, 2010 12:42:58am.
This post was modified by Fact_Checker on 2010-08-19 02:34:04